It’s hard when you don’t get a ticket. It’s hard and it’s sad. I mean, after all, this isn’t the Titanic we’re talking about; this ship really is unsinkable, and some of the very best people you know are onboard already – or racing down the gangplank – and the worst thing is that you’ve been onboard before, a few times, years ago (you hitched a lift to the Cape of Good Hope but the Horn of Bad Luck was just round the corner and you fell with a splash into murky water)… So you can’t even tell yourself it’s a shit boat and the entertainment’s Jim Davison and the captain is Old Gregg.
No, it isn’t the boat that’s the problem. The boat is just fine. More than fine. It has all the English canon onboard and most of the Yanks as well, except people like Hemingway, who’s gone off in his own fishing boat with a bottle of turps (it takes a special kind of drink to get a ghost pissed), and Salinger, who went shopping for ear plugs on shore leave, once, and was never seen again.
I am, of course (of course! You mean you didn’t realise?) talking about rejection.
I’m talking about rejection through the hackneyed metaphor of ships setting sail. More specifically, the ship of literary success that was docked in the harbour for years and years and years and yet somehow, in spite of the fact you were once at the front of the queue, you failed to get a ticket.
It’s a little bit rubbish, sometimes, this writing lark. You put yourself out there, and the editor says:
And your heart goes bang-bang-bang and the critic that lives in your head says never write again and then these guys appear:
And yesterday it was sunny but now:
And your face is all:
And you come across this on the internet:
And you feel a bit:
So you go for a walk, and you walk to a bridge, and you stand on the bridge and look down at the river. You take out your phone for a photo and tap a few words in a memo:
Look in the river. It goes down forever. The sky is in it.
Darting insects make the river wink.
A boy is fishing.
Shirt as red as flags. I’m here, it says. I live.